Younger audiences prefer more relaxed behavioural codes

November 2023

Cultural Participation Monitor Wave 9 | Summer 2023

This research is from The Audience Agency's nationwide longitudinal (ongoing) panel survey of changing views about participating in creative and cultural activities through the recent and ongoing crises, and beyond, the Cultural Participation Monitor.



Younger people are generally more tolerant of all divisive behaviours at live events, though some activities are universally off-putting (smoking/vaping, talking on the phone), while being 'allowed' to do others (eating, drinking, taking photos) actually makes people of all ages keener to attend.

Overall Attitudes

When asked if they are less likely to go to a live cultural event depending on the types of behaviours that they and other people are encouraged to do there, younger people are generally more tolerant of all divisive practices.

Net difference between a lot / a little LESS likely a lot / a little MORE likely to want to attend an event based on the below behaviours
Figure 1: Less or more likely to want to attend based on behaviours
  • That said, some activities are universally off-putting (smoking, talking on the phone, and singing/dancing along),
  • While others (eating, drinking, and taking photos) actually make people of all ages and Audience Spectrum groups keener to attend.
  • Although general phone use bothers most people, cameras are the exception, with 52% saying that they'd actually be more likely to attend an event if they are allowed to take photos.

Dos and Don'ts

Overall then, behaviours can be split into two groups - those that people want themselves and others to be able to do, and those that they don't:

Permitted activities that make people MORE LIKELY to want to attend, in order of how much they appeal:

  1. Taking photos

  2. Eating or drinking

  3. Moving around

  4. Talking to others

  5. Making videos or recordings

Permitted activities that make people LESS LIKELY to want to attend, in order of how off-putting they are:

  1. Smoking or vaping

  2. Talking on the phone

  3. Making noise in other ways

  4. Using phones (e.g. social media)

  5. Joining in with singing or dancing

By sorting these behaviours into groups expressing similar broad sentiments, we see four core cohorts of audiences' behavioural preferences emerge. And the picture becomes a little bit more complicated:

Figure 2: Behaviours' impact on desire to attend divided into broad cohorts of behavioural preferences
  • The largest group accounts for over a third (35%) of respondents who express an overall preference for a more 'in the moment' experience, and most strongly reject phone usage in all its forms.
  • A further near quarter (23%) are perfectly comfortable with people privately snacking and taking photos/recordings, so long as they are not doing it in a way that is loud or otherwise disruptive to others.
  • A smaller group (17%) leans towards a more relaxed kind of 'cinema atmosphere', while the smallest of the 4 identifiable cohorts (12%) prefers a generally more informal experience, where you are free to chat with your fellows about what you're seeing and sing-along with the show.

Differences by Age Group

Tolerance of all of these activities decreases with age, with younger audiences holding far more positive attitudes towards relaxing behavioural codes.

Would you be more or less likely to want to go to a live cultural event if you or others could do the following...? All show a decline in likeliness to attend in older age groups
Figure 3: Likeliness to attend based on behaviours by age group
  • Whether you can eat or drink during a performance has a particularly significant influence on whether Gen Z (16-24) audiences want to attend, with 69% saying that it would make them actively more likely to come.
  • This declines fast though, even amongst Millenials (25-44) with young families, only 37% of whom say that the ability to eat or drink during the entertainment makes any difference to whether or not they'd go to an event.
  • Much younger audiences' preferences for more relaxed behavioural regulations when it comes to how they can consume live culture, raises interesting questions about the increasingly different experiential tastes and expectations that venues may need to be prepared to cater to in the not so distant future.

Looking at this through the lens of Audience Spectrum, we again see that certain youth and family dominated groups - Experience Seekers, Frontline Families and Kaleidoscope Creativity - are the most likely to want to be able to use their phones in a variety of ways during a live performance - beyond taking pictures:

Experience Seekers, Frontline Families and Kaleidoscope Creativity are MORE likely to want to take photos and use their phone in other ways
Figure 4: Likeliness to want to take photos and use your phone in other ways by Audience Spectrum Segment

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